BioWare considering free-to-play Old Republic

Lead designer Emmanuel Lusinchi indicates BioWare "looking into" Star Wars MMO game dropping subscription fee in favor of free business model.

BioWare is examining the possibility of making its massively multiplayer online role-playing game Star Wars: The Old Republic a free-to-play title. Speaking to GamesTM, lead designer Emmanuel Lusinchi explained that the MMO space is constantly evolving, and BioWare must adapt to the changes.

Is The Old Republic heading to planet FTP?

"The MMO market is very dynamic and we need to be dynamic as well," Lusinchi said. "Unless people are happy with what they have, they are constantly demanding updates, new modes, and situations. So we are looking at free-to-play, but I can't tell you in much detail. We have to be flexible and adapt to what is going on."

Lusinchi went on to note his belief that free-to-play games are elevating in quality, becoming genuine competition. This competition, he said, is driving BioWare to consider its options moving forward.

"If it was just free-to-play games and they weren't very good, it wouldn't even be a question, but there are definitely good games out there and good games coming out, so of course all of this competition impacts your plan with what you want to do," he said.

This is not the first time BioWare has said the MMO genre is a demanding business to be in. Last month, Lusinchi explained that "the MMO is the toughest part of the game industry without a doubt, and we live in tough economic times in general."

Star Wars: The Old Republic launched in December to a warm critical reception, and the game tallied 2 million in sales and attracted 1.7 million paying subscribers by February. Last month, publisher Electronic Arts revealed the game had shed 400,000 users, falling to 1.3 million. Later that month, a round of layoffs also hit BioWare.

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

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Discussion

170 comments
RaiceGeriko
RaiceGeriko

Well... this is very disappointing but it is also very unsurprising.  Bioware took absolutely no risks with this game, and it shows.  They made a crisp WoW clone, and then completely ruined it as soon as it went Live.  They have added nothing to the game that shouldn't have already been there in the first place.  They have added ZERO content in nearly 8 months, other than a single WZ map.  The Legacy system is... pointless.  It's a special title put on a pretty basic achievement system most other games already have.  There is no guild support.  PvP is a total wreck (it was the FIRST thing they screwed up.)  "Space" is a total laughing-stock waste of time.  Ever since the game launched, all they've done is redesign and nerf what made it through Beta with a pretty unanimous "thumbs up" from the players. The worlds, while numerous and somewhat expansive, are dull and boring with "tileset" written all over them.  It was fun while it lasted, but there is nothing about it that I felt was going to stand the test of time.  I think the problem with MMO's is not that a P2P business model doesn't work or that F2P is "becoming very competitive"; it's the fact that Themepark MMO's do not work with P2P models.  F2P models are where failed MMO's go - and Bioware even considering it tells me that's exactly what they think about it.  Not even a year into it, and they're jumping ship.  To be fair - I think this is EA more than anything.  MMO's as a P2P game worked a lot better back when they were more like Sandboxes - that's what this genre needs: a good Sandbox title with some budget behind it.

Scarab83
Scarab83

Honestly, I will play the shit out of tOR again if it goes free-to-play.

cjtech
cjtech

I think that would make SWtOR epic, no monthly fee, nice hope it goes through

stefan_931
stefan_931

What? Ooooh EA games wont like this anything that is free for us is bad for them, at any rate, I would like a KOTOR 3 instead

WSUfanatic
WSUfanatic

They need to just make a damn KOTOR 3 for consoles.

vylasni
vylasni

The biggest issue with MMOs is the time commitment for achieving a goal. This is especially true of TOR. You may be able to hang on to the young crowd who can line up 4-6 hours in a row to get things done, but when you're looking for something quick and fun to do in SWTOR, you can't find it. It takes you 15-20 mins just getting to where you need to go before something starts happening. Server populations were dwindling to the point where getting a group together was a joke. With the best license in the world (Star Wars) they still can't make the game enjoyable for those of us with a real life. Sad.

vishisluv7
vishisluv7

The market is changing with more and more momentum towards F2P.

EA was stupid to sink 100's of millions into this fiasco. Dollar for dollar the biggest MMO flop of all time? Didn't even have a honeymoon period the game was so unfinished. Ohlen is the luckiest man alive for still being employed. His boss must owe him money or something.

driftingsilvia
driftingsilvia

I wouldn't go back even if it went free to play.

StarKiller2127
StarKiller2127

the problem with when a game goes free to play they start charging for stuff that used to be free with a sub.  take STO for example they release a new ship and charge you $20 to $40 for the ship i would much rather pay 15 a month for the months i want to play it and get all that stuff for free

Frosty192
Frosty192

yup saw this coming, that is why I only paid for the game then never continued to sub to it.

CosmicJosh
CosmicJosh

Just got in to KOTOR 2 years ago, took a year off, and now I'm finishing up the second one. I would buy this game, but only once. I'm not even paying for Xbox Live anymore, just because I'm playing free games like Tribes, or LOTRO (Still need to get back into that game)

 

But BIOWARE needs to make this game Buy To Play. I would buy it, and so would many other fans who aren't willing to make a monthly commitment. 

 

Just my thoughts.

Crash_WL
Crash_WL

I like MMOs, but not enough to pay a monthly subscription of 15€ (or how much it is). If it goes F2P, though, I can promise I'll definitely play a lot, and bring my friends in, too. Because, although not many of my friends like pay2play MMOs, almost everyone (myself included) would pay a small fee for items, cosmetic or not.

 

BioWare, think seriously about going F2P. You can always have a Silver/Gold Premium subscription model, with more inventory slots and the usual stuff MMOs give, but add something more to it so it attracts people.

MN121MN
MN121MN

"Consider" free to play/? If a online game's free there's bound to be ads, sales for cool stuffs and so on

icebear8
icebear8

the game was good until you beat your class story, after that the game just drops from there for me.

 

icebear8
icebear8

if they make this free to play then i will come back

holtrocks
holtrocks

I don't think they need to do this just keep releasing more end game content and the people will stay come back and new one's will come no need for a F2P model.

Breyant
Breyant

I don't hate swtor as much as it seems the average gamer does, but it's pretty obvious the game spent a LONG time in development and all the ideas they had planned seemed great back in 2006, but not so much anymore.

 

I just renewed my sub to check out 1.3 when it comes out and it's been fun getting back into it for a bit, but I fear my interest will wear before the patch even releases. F2P sounds like a horrible idea imo, I hate the idea of microtransactions, but at least it might save a sinking ship.

Ultra_Taco
Ultra_Taco

That would be a lot better. And if they really wanted to make money with this, then it could be just a one-time fee just like 90% of the games already out there.

keech
keech

Yeah so what happened to "500 thousand subscribers and the game will be profitable.  Over a million and it will be VERY profitable"?  According to EA's own words this game is 300 thousand subs over it's high mark.  Yet they are already hinting at some form of F2P?

foxrock66
foxrock66

Not surprised. It's the only way they'll get me or any of my friends to play it

Armyboy5
Armyboy5

They should do that.. sadly..

Falzonn
Falzonn

If it DOES to F2P, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.  It's great to go "I told you so", but ANOTHER 'failed' mmo just makes me sigh.

spidermanmon
spidermanmon

I hope thay make it free to play becouse that well be the only way i well play it.

Neoboy156
Neoboy156

Bioware just needs to make the MMO buy 2 play instead of free 2 play cause nobody going to buy new armor/lightsabers or blaster with real money anymore.

SnuffDaddyNZ
SnuffDaddyNZ

Would like to add, that I was in the beta for the game at a late stage, and the falloff in subscribers was something I predicted to family and friends because the game ignores all the advances that WoW made over the years in making the game less business focused and more fun focused.  For example, in Cataclysm the whole questing is fully soloable and transport is abundant, whereas in SWToR you are trekking over vast empty spaces to and from quest objectives and a LOT of the mobs are elites or "strong" as the terminology used by the game. 

 

Not to mention the forced socializing to get cosmetic gear... DUMB to say the least.

SnuffDaddyNZ
SnuffDaddyNZ

Free to play kills MMO's, and it's sad to see them considering this route rather than fix the problems with the game itself.  Whoever thought it was a good idea to let me solo kill the emperor as part of my Jedi Knight campaign - wrong, and this story proves it.

sieg6529
sieg6529

As much as I'd love to see the subscription-based model die, I like its heir-apparent, freemium, even less.  

BenFireFox
BenFireFox

f2p is and was the future since a while those 2p2 title cant hold the ppl since the market got bigger. too much p2p games fight for the monthly subscriptors and there number isnt rising so the subscription lenght is shortened :-) i think in 3-4 year the last p2p games will dissapear

fightingfish18
fightingfish18

I was actaully looking at buying this until this announcement.  Fail.  The only game that I've ever seen do free to play right is Runescape....  As sad as that sounds..

musalala
musalala

TORanic.. is there no end to you cataclysmic and endlessly entertaining crash!!!

firedrakes
firedrakes

seen this coming since game came out. really whats the point of dark side if i cant fall from it. from being a jedi

fredwv
fredwv

No LFG tool really killed the game.  

vaejas
vaejas

 @Scarab83 I would be playing it free right now, except their Level 15 cap doesn't apply to former subscribers. I'll make some more alts to continue with someday, but I don't want a whole separate account.

Crash_WL
Crash_WL

Or, well, even a one-time fee (buy the game), like Guild Wars etc. I think subscription-based MMOs are a dying breed, with all those F2P MMOs out there. Tera would be lovely if it was F2P, for example, it doesn't offer THAT much more to make me want to pay for it monthly.

tigertaru
tigertaru

 @icebear8 I think everyone will come back if it's free to play lol.  I know I would play if it was.  I was interested in the game, but as much as I love MMOs, I had to take myself out of the "pay a monthly fee to play a game" market.  There are plenty of good console/pc games that don't cost a fee, and there are free MMOs that are certainly good enough to help curb the online gaming itch. 

BigDawgSteve420
BigDawgSteve420

 @keech Well I think that 1.3 million was back in like April and guarantee subs have dropped since then.  I know even though I quit back in March, i was paid through May so mine still counted then, and that was the case with many others.

Breyant
Breyant

 @keech I think they wanted to seem humble in their estimates but internally, EA was saying to Bioware "2 million subs on release with 3 more million by the end of the year.... or else."

ZoTrAcK
ZoTrAcK

 @spidermanmon And if it get F2P, you'll still have to create an origin account, which is like asking for a cancer...

Neoboy156
Neoboy156

 @spidermanmon if the game go free 2 play your going have to buy new armor, lightsabers and blasters with real money not fake in game money I know this cause of Star trek online when the same way and buying anything new is going be with real money only.

godziothc
godziothc

 @Neoboy156 You must not own nor seen what goes in Diablo 3 then :) Trust me those people still exist

nechiken
nechiken

 @fightingfish18From what I remember, Runescape hasn't released any F2p content since RS2. Imo, Jagex treats their F2p community like shit, and from what I've seen after just logging in for the first time in years, is that they've had a huge shift in policy. Now they throw more and more crap at you to try to get you to pay.

holtrocks
holtrocks

 @mrboone01 Have u played it? Because i have since day one and it is still worth it.

colt_a
colt_a

 @fredwv Buggy release, limited content and poor support killed it more.

StarKiller2127
StarKiller2127

 @ZoTrAcK actually you dont need origin to play the game you can download it through the SWTOR website and never have to touch origin that is how i did it 

zirakizen
zirakizen

 @Neoboy156 if they do integrate the F2P model correctly then purchases with real money will be purely cosmetic and not force the game into an area where people who decide to buy weapons armor etc with real money havea leg up on people who decide not to.

fightingfish18
fightingfish18

 @nechiken Of course they want you to pay.  They released the GE in free play.  Theres a couple new quests for f2p.  Really there was so much on f2p that I played free for a year before paying.

StarKiller2127
StarKiller2127

 @colt_a that is how every MMO starts it is common.  yes TOR isn't the best game not even close but it is good and i have had a lot of fun with it.  it still cant hold a candle to SWG

StarKiller2127
StarKiller2127

 @mrboone01 you do realize every MMO sucks and goes through the same problems at launch it was that way with SWG STO WOW every MMO i have ever played at launch has had problems but it is what happens 6 months in to a year in that let you know